Changi viaduct collapse: Construction firm and 5 individuals charged

Wan Ting Koh
·Senior Reporter

UPDATE: This story has been updated with statements from MOM and BCA.

A construction firm and five men – including the firm’s managing director – suspected of being responsible for the collapse of an under-construction viaduct near Upper Changi Road East last year have been charged for their roles in the incident, which left one worker dead and 10 others injured.

The charges come after the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) completed its investigations into the 14 July 2017 accident and submitted its findings to the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

Construction firm Or Kim Peow (OKP) Contractors, its group managing director Or Toh Wat, employees Yee Chee Keong and Wong Kiew Hai, and consultants Robert Arianto Tjandra and Leong Sow Hon, were charged on Wednesday (30 May) for breaches under the Workplace Safety and Health Act and the Building Control Act.

Both the firm and Or face charges of failing to take measures to ensure the safety and health of the firm’s employees by failing to adequately assess risk when they became aware of cracks that had formed on support structures known as corbels. As OKP has been previously convicted of a similar offence which also led to a person’s death, it faces an enhanced maximum fine of $1 million if convicted of the latest charge. Or faces a jail term of up to two years and a maximum fine of $200,000 if convicted.

They had also allegedly failed to stop all work on the viaduct after discovering fresh cracks had formed on the corbels, which led to the fatal incident.

OKP and Or were also both charged for allegedly carrying out unauthorised strengthening works on a corbel without the approval of the Commissioner of Building Control, and for failing to notify the Commissioner of the contravention of a section the Building Control Act.

Two other OKP employees, project director Yee Chee Keong and project engineer Wong Kiew Hai, were also charged for breaches under the same acts.

Yee and Wong were each charged with one count of recklessly committing an act which endangered the safety of others. They are accused of failing to halt all works on the viaduct section when cracks were discovered in the corbels supporting the section upon which the workers were casting a deck slab.

Both men were also charged with one count of intentionally obstructing the course of justice by deleting a WhatsApp conversation between each other which contained photographs and information potentially relevant to criminal investigations.

Yee also faces one count of permitting unauthorised strengthening works without the approval of the Commissioner of Building Control.

Consultants implicated

Separately, Tjandra, a professional engineer from CPG Consultants who approved the design and supervision of the viaduct construction works, and Leong, an executive from Calibre Consulting Singapore, were also charged.

Tjandra faces one count of recklessly committing an act which endangered the safety of others. He allegedly put up structural plans without checking on the design assumptions made for the cracked corbels. He also allegedly did not carry out the necessary remedial works to rectify the inadequate design, even after knowing that the corbels could not support the deck slab while it was being concreted.

Tjandra was also accused of failing to ensure that the building works relating to the permanent corbel structures were designed in accordance with the provisions of the Building Control Act and regulations, and accused of failing to notify the Commissioner of Building Control of the contravention of a section in the act.

He is also accused of authorising strengthening works without approval from the Commissioner of Building Control and of falsely certifying that the structural plans and design calculations were prepared in accordance with the Building Control Act and regulations.

Leong, the accredited checker for the structural works, was charged with one count of failing to evaluate, analyse and review the structural design in the plans and perform original calculations for the permanent corbels and one count of falsely certifying that he had carried out an evaluation, analysis and review of the plans of the building works in accordance with the building regulations.

All parties involved were represented by lawyers and will return to court on 11 July. Yee and Wong were each offered bail of $20,000 while Tjandro was offered $15,000 bail.

In an announcement issued on 16 May, OKP Holdings said its subsidiary, OKP Contractors, along with Or, Yee and Wong had “received summonses from the MOM and/or the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) in relation to the accident” on 15 May.

On 14 July 2017, the Pan Island Expressway viaduct, which was along Upper Changi Road East, collapsed at around 3.30am. Preliminary investigations said that the brackets that helped to support its beams had given way, causing a section of the viaduct to collapse.

The accident killed one worker – Chinese national Chen Yinchuan – and injured three of his compatriots, an Indian worker and six Bangladeshi workers.

A Stop Work Order was issued subsequently by the Ministry of Manpower, which commenced investigations into the project. Separately, the Building and Construction Authority and Land Transport Authority also conducted investigations.

According to media reports, the Stop Work Order was partially lifted on 21 March after MOM was satisfied with OKP contractors’ proposals to address safety risks and hazards for these works.

However, the lifting was in relation to rectification works and an MOM spokesman has since clarified that the Stop Work Order on progressive works relating to the viaduct structures is still in force. A BCA spokesperson added that works to the viaduct structure cannot be carried out until new plans have been submitted to the BCA, approved by it, and a permit is issued.

In a separate statement on Wednesday, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said it would be demolishing all the crossheads on the uncompleted sections of the viaduct as a safety precaution. It said that an independent professional engineer has been appointed to assess the viaduct’s structural integrity.

“Any other sections which are assessed to be unsafe by the professional engineer will be demolished. LTA is studying its options carefully and reviewing the viaduct project with OKP,” said the authority.

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